Swift sued over employee status

Jill Dunn | January 27, 2010
Swift and its equipment leasing unit are being sued.
Swift and its equipment leasing unit are being sued.

A law firm is seeking class action status in its suit against Swift Transportation and Interstate Equipment Leasing it charges wrongly classified truckers as owner-operators instead of employees.

Getman and Sweeny, a New York law firm representing employees in labor disputes, filed the suit Dec. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit was filed on behalf of John Doe and Joseph Sheer. Arizona-based Swift owns IEL, which leases trucks to Swift’s California and New York owner-operators.

The suit seeks wages required by federal and state wage and hour laws and money it alleges was deducted in violation of state statutes prohibiting deductions from employee pay for tools of the trade, such as accounting fees and equipment such as Qualcomm.

Swift did not respond to an Overdrive request for comment.

The firm charges that Swift controlled virtually every aspect of how the truckers did their business and handled their equipment. While the company could terminate the owner-operator contract at any time, when they did, their contract stipulated it be considered a default by plaintiffs and allows Swift to treat remaining lease payments and lost profit as owed immediately.

At least 100 owner-operators could qualify for the suit, which seeks more than $5 million.
On Dec. 9, a Los Angeles administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board ruled for the Teamsters union in its suit against Swift. The judge ordered Swift could not harass employees over union actions and to reinstate two employees fired after engaging in union activities.

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